Hanover mom outraged after gay rights book read to 7-year-old daughter

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Culley Burleson was shocked to learn her daughter’s teacher at Henry Clay Elementary School in Hanover read a gay rights book to a second-grade class.

“I think the topic was very heavy, I think was very inappropriate,” said Burleson.

The book in question is ‘Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and The Rainbow Flag.’

Through its colorful illustrations, it traces the life of social activist Harvey Milk, who became the first openly gay elected official in California after being elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, and the origins of the gay pride flag.

“It caused her to question her faith, it caused her to know what homosexuality is,” said Burleson.

It’s considered a children’s book, and Amazon calls it “the best children’s book of the year.”

Burleson, however, thinks it’s too adult for a classroom of seven-year-olds.

“I don’t necessarily have a problem with the book itself, it’s the illustrations that my daughter questioned,” she said.

One illustration, in particular, shows Milk before a crowd of protestors. Those protestors are holding signs that read “gays must go” and “God says no.”

Burleson says the images were very confusing for her young daughter.

“That image was enough for my daughter to come home and question why God would hate anyone he created,” she explained. “She has been told her entire life God doesn’t hate anyone, love everyone if you don’t understand something about someone pray for them, ask questions.” 

This is not the first time parents have been outraged over a book shared by a teacher with students in Hanover Public Schools. Last year, the mother of a Cold Harbor Elementary School student, who we did not identify raised concerns about a racy novel.

“There are girls talking about being promiscuous. Starting off with kissing and then it got worse,” she told 8News.

Back at Henry Clay, Burleson complained. She said the teacher stood by the book saying it was part civil rights lesson.

Yet, after 8News reached out to the school district, the principal sent a letter home to parents.

In the letter, she apologizes and writes the book “was not vetted through the appropriate process at our school. It is also not an approved part of our curriculum.”

Burleson said, “I want to see Hanover County’s policy changed where parents are aware of what materials are going to be read in the classroom.”

Hanover schools have a policy in place that is supposed to make parents aware of the books used in the classroom. Burleson thinks there needs to be more oversight of the teachers to make sure they are sticking to that policy.

“The County should be able to provide parents with documentation that the teachers have read policy,” said Burleson.

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